Samantha Setterfield

Professor, BSc Monash, PhD Charles Darwin University

  • The University of Western Australia (M087), 35 Stirling Highway,

    6009 Perth


Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from PlumX

Personal profile


I have over 25 years experience in tropical ecology focussed on three interrelated areas of research: (i) tropical savanna and wetland ecology, (ii) invasive plant ecology, and (iii) weed risk management. 

I joined UWA in 2016, after an extensive period in northern Australia I completed my Honours in Botany at Monash University, and then moved to Darwin to take up a PhD opportunity investigating the effects of fire on tropical savannas within CSIRO’s Kapalga Fire Experiment in Kakadu National Park. I took up a lecturing position at Charles Darwin University (CDU) during which I led the Education programme of the Tropical Savannas CRC. I then moved into a lecturing role in the undergraduate programme at CDU and continued to build my research programme on tropical plant ecology.

My research is highly collaborative with well-established partnerships with numerous research organisations and research users. In particular, I have extensively collaborated with Professor Michael Douglas (UWA), Dr Natalie Rossiter-Rachor (CDU) and Prof Lindsay Hutley (CDU).


Tropical Savannas

My research group currently works in the savannas across northern Australia, from the Kimberley, through the NT and in Cape York. We continue to have significant breakthroughs in understanding the impact of invasive grasses (particularly Andropogon gayanus, gamba grass) on nutrient cycling, biodiversity and fire regimes. We demonstrated that some weed species in tropical savannas are operating as ecosystem transformers by initiating a self-perpetuating grass-fire cycle of degradation. Our research has predicted the long-term implications of these changes to Australia’s tropical ecosystem structure and function, and the cost and approaches of effective management. This has been achieved by detailed ecological studies and incorporation of this knowledge into innovative spatially-explicit weed spread and management models.

Tropical Wetlands

A major focus of current research is on the ecology of rivers and wetlands in northern Australia and potential impacts on ecological and social values from water extraction, plant invasions and climate change. Research is also assessing the impact of fire on riparian zones, which are critical refuges in these ecosystems that experience annual drought and frequent fire. This research is led by Michael Douglas UWA as part of the National Environmental Science Program.

Research Awards

  • Invasive Species Council Biosecure Australia Award (Setterfield and Douglas) for “research on the severe impacts of tropical grassy weeds in northern Australia, and advocacy for a strong response from government.”
  • Territory NRM Research Award in 2014 (awarded to the Tropical Invasive Grasses Research Group).
  • CDU Vice-Chancellor’s Research Team Award, for my lab group
  • Finalist at the 2008 NT Government’s Research & Innovation Awards in the Tropical Knowledge category.
  • Dean of Sciences Award for Outstanding Researcher (2008).
  • 2009 CDU Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Exceptional Performance by a Research Team (Setterfield, Douglas, Hutley, Rossiter-Rachor).

Current projects

ARC Discovery Up in smoke and out to sea? Carbon, water and land use change in savanna. 

Bushfires & Natural Hazards CRC. Savanna Fire Management and BNH Scenario Planning for northern Australia

NESP NAH Project 2.3 Weed invasion, fire and ecosystem failure: catchment scale scenario modeling to improve planning and management. Co-project Leader with Dr Natalie Rossiter-Rachor CDU

NESP NAH Project 2.6 Managing savanna riparian zones Project Leader 

NESP NAH Project 3.1.1 Environmental water needs – Fitzroy River. 

NESP NAH Project 1.4 Methods and techniques to measure temporal change in soil carbon Project Leader

NESP NAH Project 2.10 Improving gamba grass control on Cape York Peninsula

NESP NAH Project 6.2 Transdisciplinary environmental research

NESP NAH Project 5.5 Bining/Mungguy health country indicators (Kakadu)

NESP Project 2.7. Tree water use and sensitivity to contaminated mine water 

NESP Synthesis Project – Gamba Grass Web Resource

Honey Bee Products CRC Understanding the environmental drivers of flora and honey bee product production: development of Remote Sensing approaches for predicting flowering events (Project Led by Dr Nik Callow)

Teaching overview

I teach in the ecology and environmental sciences programmes at UWA.  Units that I have taught into at UWA are

  • ENVT5513 Decision Strategies for Biodiversity Conservation (unit coordinator)
  • ENVT2250 Ecology
  • ENVT2261 Conservation Biology
  • ENVT4404 Environmental Decision-making
  • GEOG3302 Geographic, Environment and Planning fieldwork

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 8 - Decent Work and Economic Growth
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Research expertise keywords

  • savanna ecology
  • invasive plant ecology
  • tropical ecology
  • wetland ecology
  • gamba grass
  • fire ecology


Dive into the research topics where Samantha Setterfield is active. These topic labels come from the works of this person. Together they form a unique fingerprint.
  • 1 Similar Profiles

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

Recent external collaboration on country/territory level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots or